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the play for this program, the wild duck by henrik ibsen. now, your host, mr. jose ferrer. henrik ibsen, the author of the wild duck, was called idealist, skeptic, reformer, even pornographer. audiences of the 1880s were shocked by topics which well-bred people avoided. in an age which prized gentility, ibsen was scandalously provocative. he would not allow the appearance of respectability to conceal truth. at the same time, he recognized the danger of such revelations. a few years before the wild duck was written, he had aroused so much public hostility against the frankness of his play ghosts
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that he was labeled an enemy of the people. upon reflection, he turned that accusation against himself into the title of still another play. in the wild duck, some of the most severe attacks are directed against the so-called idealists. though ibsen's subjects-- contemporary corruption in clergy and business, sexual inequality, prudishness and other victorian unmentionables-- were considered dangerous, his method of presentation was conventional. he used melodramatic devices, usually making quite explicit the division between good characters and bad. to make deceptively simple-looking plays, he wrote what was called the well-made play, that is, a play so carefully constructed that almost every line and object turned out to have some important use in a latter part of the play. it was said that if the heroine of a well-made play coughs in the first act, she will surely die
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of tuberculosis by the end. if a gun is handled, it will surely be used. there are no casual deliveries of mail. a letter will bring joy to some, destruction to others. no one will merely observe the beauty of a piece of jewelry. it will surely turn up later as part of someone's effort to conceal the past. ibsen's audiences love such revelations in which it is shown that things are not what they seem to be. the baby is the child of someone else. the poor man has unexpectedly inherited a fortune. surprises abound as, for instance, when a legal document is suddenly flourished, astounding all present. the wild duck contains such a document and revelations. throughout the play, the secrets of the past impinge on the present. ibsen's audiences were prepared for revelations but not for the penetrating vision of a playwright who insisted on asking embarrassingly profound questions.
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the wild duck, like most of the plays of henrik ibsen, takes place in the room of a house, an ordinary room, inhabited by an ordinary family, hjalmar ekdal, his wife, gina, and the 12-year-old daughter, hedvig. the fact that these are the main characters does not seem strange to modern audiences who are accustomed to many plays and even television drama based on the family. in a room looking like this, there can be any number of subjects for a play, ranging from the most trivial domestic item to a serious marital conflict with perhaps young hedvig acting as peacemaker. we can expect to hear about money and meals, arrivals and departures, perhaps even an outsider
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who upsets temporarily the tranquility of the room. as we concentrate on the setting, we think of all the things which would not be appropriate here: the confrontation of a great king and the requirements of olympian gods, a brooding soliloquy with impassioned verse, questioning the purpose of life, a duel between captains of rival armies, the witty dialogue of the idle rich, great diplomatic decisions, whimsical fantasy, a musical comedy. it would also be possible to show a detective story or domestic drama light and predictable. but would it be possible to use such a setting and ordinary-looking people to deal with profound issues? would it be possible, for instance, to investigate marriage as an institution, the corruption of the clergy, devious business practices,
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prudishness, deceit? ibsen thought so. and in some of his most important plays, he did so. the issues are presented in a realistic sense. ibsen provides these believable details even at the most crucial moments of the play. whereas in older drama, the setting needed merely to be suggested because interest was focused on magnificent language, in realistic drama, people are accounted for in places throughout the house. the use of details around a table can assume large significance, indeed. in one scene, for instance, hjalmar has announced that he is so upset he won't even eat. ...and some bread and some cold meat. meat? never again under this roof. i don't care if i haven't had a bite for 24 hours.
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in his management of these little details, in speech after speech and in the use of household objects, ibsen lets the audience know the main traits of each character. ibsen limited himself to the things people could actually say to each other in this room. the table takes on vital significance. much of the dialogue is concerned with eating and drinking. conventionally, it is the wife, gina, who is most concerned. gina seems to be constantly putting out food and clearing up. her responsibilities involve tending to not only her immediate family but also the boarders whose rent supplements their income. the boarders include dr. relling, molvik, who frequently drinks too much, and the most recent addition, a man named gregers werle,
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son of the man who had once been gina's employer. as they sit around the table, the men talk of truth, ideals, vision, ambition. dutifully, the mother and daughter do the daily tasks. hedvig's eyes are dim. she must wear glasses at all times. despite the affliction, she, like her mother, helps hjalmar to earn a living by retouching the photographs her father takes in his home studio. ibsen is able to make his story come to life around this table. he can deal with a significant theme within the confines of this room where his characters can develop the story through conversation. but ibsen is clearly interested in doing more than provide us with character sketches of some interesting members of a victorian household.
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in the wild duck, he is aiming for the exploration of truth itself. in the wild duck, the idealist is gregers werle, determined to force his old friend hjalmar to face up to the truth about his wife and family. gregers is the son of a wealthy man. however, in an earlier scene, he rejects his father's wealth and any association with his father's business. gregers' father had cheated hjalmar's father, old ekdal, years ago in a shady deal for which old ekdal took the blame. and gregers' father had apparently had a romantic affair with the very gina who is now such a devoted wife to hjalmar. there is the possibility that hedvig's poor eyesight may have been inherited from her actual father if werle is indeed her father.
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the wild duck deals with certain questions. should the truth be told? can the family endure truth, or must they continue to live according to the life lie which the doctor maintains most people require? ibsen might have stopped there with an interesting play about people the audience would learn to understand, but he wanted more, a larger theme. and for that, he needed a symbol, the wild duck of the play title. he allows for the realistic use of the creature by making it part of a menagerie living in an attic within the ekdal house. apparently, hjalmar's father was once a man able to indulge his hobby of hunting in the forest. now his hunting is confined to shooting tame animals in this collection of which the duck is a prize. the way ibsen transforms this creature into a meaningful symbol will be evident as you watch the play.
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well, father, now, we're alone. gregers, i don't think there's any man in the world you hate as much as me. i've seen you at too close quarters. you have seen me with your mother's eyes. but you mustn't forget, those eyes were clouded now and again. but who bears the blame for my mother's unhappy disability? it's you and all these-- the last of them was this female you palmed off on hjalmar ekdal when you no longer-- word for word, as though i were listening to your mother. now here he is, so tremendously trusting an innocent in the midst of deceit, living under the same roof as a woman like that not knowing that what he calls his home is built on a lie.
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when i look back on everything you've done, it's as though i have looked out over a battlefield strewn with shattered lives. since you've now moved in with the ekdals, i can only assume that you have in mind something against me. what i have in mind is to open hjalmar ekdal's eyes. he shall see the situation as it is, that's all. is this the life's work you were talking about yesterday? yes. you haven't left me any other. is it my fault that your ideas are all mixed up, gregers? you've messed up my whole life. and i'm not only thinking of the business with mother, but it's thanks to you that i now suffer the torment of a desperately guilty conscience. your conscience has gone a bit queer, eh? i should have stood up to you at the time the trap was laid for lieutenant ekdal. i should have warned him. i had a pretty fair idea then how things would work out in the end. yes, you really should have spoken out then. i didn't dare. i was scared, too much of a coward.
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can't tell you how frightened i was of you then and for a long time after too. it would seem that fear has passed now. yes, fortunately, it has. the harm that's been done old ekdal, both by me and by others, could never be put right, but what i can do now is free hjalmar from the lies and deceit that are causing his ruination. in that case, i might save myself a journey. there's no use asking you if you'll come home again? no. and you won't come into the firm either? no. very well. as i now intend to marry again, the estate will be divided between us. no, i don't want that. you don't want that? no. my conscience wouldn't let me. are you going back up to the works again? no, i regard myself as having left your service. oh, what are you going to do now? i shall fulfill my mission. that's all. but what will you do afterwards?
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what will you live on? i've saved a bit out of my pay. but how long will that last? i think it will last my time out. what do you mean by that? i'm not answering any more questions. goodbye then, gregers. goodbye. has he gone? yes. that's put paid to that lunch. put your things on, hjalmar. you're coming for a long walk with me. with pleasure. what did your father want? anything to do with me? just come with me. we must have a little talk. i'll go and get my coat. i wouldn't go out with him if i were you, hjalmar. no, don't do it, old man. stay where you are. what? when a dear friend feels the need
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to open his heart to me. damn it, man. can't you see the fellow is mad? he's barmy, out of his mind. there you are, you see? just you take note. his mother used to have bouts just the same as that sometimes. all the more reason for him to need a friend's watchful eye. make sure my dinner is ready on time, will you? goodbye for now. my dear hjalmar, wasn't it a good thing i came? yes. so you saw quite clearly how things were. now wasn't that a good thing? yes, of course, it was a good thing. in certain cases, it's impossible to disregard the claims of the ideal. but there's one thing that offends my sense of justice. - and what is that? - the fact that-- i don't think i ought to speak so freely about your father. oh, no. don't mind me at all. well then, you see, what i find so distressing
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is the fact that it's now not me who is to found a true marriage, but him. - how can you say that? - oh, but it's true. your father and mrs. sorby are now entering upon a marriage based on full confidence, based on complete and unqualified frankness on both sides. there's no keeping anything back. there's no deception underneath it all. if i might so put it, it's an agreement for the mutual forgiveness of sin. well, what of it? well, there is only his bit from what you said. one had to go through all this difficult business to found a true marriage. no, that's something quite different, hjalmar. surely, you're not going to compare either yourself or her with those two? you see what i mean, don't you? but i can't get over the fact that there's something in all this that offends my sense of justice. it's as if for all the world, there's no justice at all in things. good gracious, hjalmar. you mustn't say things like that. don't let's get ourselves involved in questions like that.
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and yet, on the other hand, i think i can claim to see the guiding finger of fate. your father is going blind. oh, perhaps that's not so certain. well, there's no doubt about it. at least there ought not to be any doubt about it, for that's precisely what makes it a just retribution. your father at sometime has blinded a trusting fellow creature. he has, i regret to say, blinded many. and now comes this mysterious, implacable power and demands the man's own eyes. oh, how can you say such dreadful things? it makes me feel quite scared. it profits a man occasionally to immerse himself in the darker things of life. back again already? yes, i didn't want to go any further. it was just as well. i met someone at the door. - that must've been mrs. sorby. - yes. i'd like to think you've seen her for the last time. - daddy. - well, what is it, hedvig? mrs. sorby had something for me. - for you? - yes.
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it's something for tomorrow. bertha has always had some little thing for your birthday. what is it? you mustn't know what it is yet. mother has to bring it to me in bed first thing in the morning. oh, all this secrecy and me being left in the dark. you can see it if you like. it's a big letter. - oh, a letter too? - there's only the letter. i suppose the rest is to come later. but just imagine, a letter. i've never had a letter before. it says "miss" on the front, "miss hedvig ekdal." that's me. may i see the letter? there, you see? oh, that's old mr. werle's writing. are you sure, hjalmar? look yourself. oh, you didn't think i'd know, do you? hedvig, may i open the letter and read it? - yes, of course, if you want. - no. not tonight, hjalmar. you know that it's meant for tomorrow. oh, please, let him read it. it's sure to be something nice, then daddy will be pleased and we'll all be happy again.
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- i may open it then? - yes, daddy, do. it'll be fun to find out what it is. very well. - what's this? - what does it say? - yes, tell us. - be quiet. it's a deed of gift. fancy that! what am i getting? read it yourself. the eyes, the eyes. and now this letter. yes, but it looks to me as though it's grandfather who's getting it. gina, can you understand this? i don't know the first thing about it. you tell me what it is. mr. werle writes to hedvig to say that her own grandfather needn't bother doing any more copying, but in future, he may collect a hundred crowns a month straight from the office.
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a hundred crowns, mother. i read that bit. well, that'll be nice for grandfather. a hundred crowns for as long as he needs it. that means, of course, until he's passed away. well, that's him provided for, poor old fellow. that's not all. you didn't read far enough, hedvig. after that, it's to come to you. to me? all that? you're assured a like amount for the rest of your life, he writes. - do you hear that, gina? - yes, i heard. fancy all the money i'm going to get. - daddy, aren't you glad? - glad? well, this puts quite a new perspective on things. this opens my eyes to all sorts of possibilities. it's hedvig. she's the one he's being so generous to. yes, because she is the one who's having the birthday. you shall have it all the same, daddy. you know, i'll give all the money to you and mother. yes. to mother. that's just it. hjalmar, this is a trap that's being set for you. could it be another trap, do you think? when he was here this morning, he said, "hjalmar ekdal is not the man you take him to be."
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not the man-- "just wait. you'll see," he said. see that i'd let myself be bought off for a price. mother, what's all this about? go and take your wet boots off, hedvig. yes, hjalmar. now we'll see who's right, him or me. - there's my answer. - as i expected. now let there be no more pretension. if this affair was over and done with when you got fond of me, as you put it, why did he go and arrange things so that we could afford to get married? i suppose he thought he'd be able to come and go here as he pleased. was that all? wasn't he afraid of a certain possibility? i don't know what you mean. i want to know if your child has the right to live under my roof. you ask me that? and i want a straight answer. is she mine or...
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well? i don't know. you don't know. how should i know? this house is no place for me anymore. think well what you are doing, hjalmar. there's no need to think here, not for a man like me. yes, there is. there's a tremendous lot to think about. the three of you must stay together if you, hjalmar, are to win through to that sublime mood of magnanimity and forgiveness. i don't want to. never. never! my hat. my home has collapsed in ruins 'bout my ears. gregers, i... i have no child.
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- what are you saying? - hedvig-- - daddy! - don't come near me, hedvig. go away. i can't bear to look at you. oh, those eyes. - goodbye. - no, don't leave me! look at the child, hjalmar. look at her. i will not. i cannot! - let me go. - oh! i must get away from all this. mother, he's leaving us. he's leaving us. he's never coming back again. shh, don't cry, hedvig. your father is coming back all right. he's never coming home again. you must believe i meant it all for the best, mrs. ekdal. i daresay you did, but may god forgive you, all the same. oh, i feel as though i want to die. what have i done? mother, you must make him come home to us again. yes, yes. be quiet, hedvig.
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i'll just go out and see if i can see him. he might be in with relling. you mustn't lie there crying now. promise me. i'll stop as long as daddy comes back. wouldn't it perhaps be better to let him fight his bitter fight to the end? he can do that afterwards. the first thing is to get the child quietened down. do you know what the matter is? why doesn't daddy want me anymore? you mustn't ask that until you've grown up into a big girl.
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i can't go on feeling awful and miserable until i'm grown up. i know what it is. perhaps i'm not really daddy's at all. how could that be? well, mother could have found me maybe, and now daddy's found out. i've read about things like that. well, but even so, it would-- he could be just as fond of me, even more. after all, the wild duck was sent to us as a present and i'm very fond of her. yes, the wild duck. that's right. let's talk about the wild duck, hedvig, hmm? poor little wild duck. he can't stand the sight of her either. do you know he wanted to wring her neck? oh, i'm sure he wouldn't do that. no, but that's what he said. i thought it was horrid of daddy to say that, 'cause i say a prayer for the wild duck every night. i ask for her to be delivered from death and all evil.
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do you always say your prayers? - yes. - who taught you? i taught myself. once when daddy was very sick, he had to have leeches on his neck, and he said he was at death's door. well? so i said a prayer for him after i'd gone to bed. i've done it ever since. now you pray for the wild duck as well? i thought i'd better include the wild duck. she was so poorly to begin with. do you say your prayers in the morning too? - no, i don't. - why not? it's light in the morning. there's nothing to be afraid of anymore. and the wild duck you're so terribly fond of, your father wants to wring its neck? he said if he had his way, he'd do it but that he'd spare her for my sake. that was sweet of him. suppose you were willing to sacrifice the wild duck - for his sake. - the wild duck? suppose you were ready to sacrifice for him the most precious thing you had in the world. do you think that would help? try it, hedvig.
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yes, i will try it. have you the proper strength of mind, do you think, hmm? i'll ask grandfather to shoot the wild duck for me. yes, do that. but not a word to your mother about this. why not? she doesn't understand us. the wild duck. i'll try it first thing in the morning. - did you find him, mother? - no. but he'd gone out with relling, they said. - you sure? - yes. the caretaker's wife said so. molvik was with them, too, she said. oh, at a time like this, when his soul so desperately needs solitude if he's to win through. yes. you never know where you are with men. lord knows where relling has dragged him off to. i rushed into ma eriksen's, but they weren't there. what if he never comes back? he will come back. i'll take a message to him in the morning. you'll see, he'll come. sleep well.
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rest assured about that, hedvig. good night. mother. [crying] yes. relling was right. this is what happens to you when you get those stupid idiots coming round with their fancy talk of the claim of the ideal. - well? - yes, mother, i think it's very likely he's in with relling-- there you are, you see. --because the caretaker's wife said she heard two other people come in with relling last night. i fancied as much. that doesn't help, though, if he won't come back here.
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well, at least i can pop down and talk to him. hjalmar. hjalmar? i--oh, where's hjalmar? he's gone out. so early? in all this snow? oh. oh, well, let him. i can go for a walk by myself. help your grandfather into the loft, hedvig. hedvig. hello. mother, what's poor grandfather going to say when he hears daddy is going to leave us? rubbish. grandfather mustn't hear anything of the sort. oh, what a godsend he wasn't around yesterday when all this business was going on. yes, but-- well, found any trace of him?
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as like as not, he's down there in with relling, they say. with relling? has he really been out with those fellows? - yes. - how could he, when he desperately needs solitude and a chance to collect himself? you might well say that. - is daddy with you? - is he there? indeed he is. and you never told us. [belching] i know. i'm a beast. but i had to see to the other beast first, you know, the demoniac one, our friend molvik. and then i fell right off to sleep. well, what's hjalmar got to say for himself today? he doesn't say anything. hasn't he said anything at all? not a blessed word. i know. i understand that so well. what's he doing with himself then? well, he's lying on the sofa, snoring. oh, is he? yes, hjalmar's pretty good at snoring. is he asleep? can he really sleep? well, it certainly looks like it. quite understandable, torn as he was by the conflict in his soul.

Deutsche Welle Journal
LINKTV February 12, 2013 2:00pm-2:30pm PST

News/Business. International news and analysis. (Stereo)

TOPIC FREQUENCY Us 9, Gina 7, Hjalmar 6, Ibsen 3, Mrs. Sorby 3, Mr. Werle 2, Gregers 2, Henrik Ibsen 2, Hedvig 2, Relling 2, Gregers Werle 2, Skeptic 1, The Eyes 1, Let Me Go 1, Ekdal 1, Ekdals 1, Old Ekdal 1, Hjalmar Ekdal 1, Hedvig Ekdal 1, Eriksen 1
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